Jewelers of America has compiled the following list of frequently asked questions and is providing details and shortcuts to minimize the time spent finding the answers to those questions. See FAQ's on the following topics below: 

Staying Healthy

How can I keep my employees safe from the Coronavirus?

The CDC offers the following “Top 10 Tips to Protect Employees’ Health” from their “Prepare your Small Business and Employees for the Effects of COVID-19” guidance: 
  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisals and ensure employees are aware of these policies.
  • Have conversations with employees about their concerns. Some employees may be at higher risk for severe illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
  • Develop other flexible policies for scheduling and telework (if feasible) and create leave policies to allow employees to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools and childcare close.
  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about their plans. Discuss the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies.
  • Promote etiquette for coughing and sneezing and handwashing. Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, soap and water and hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Plan to implement practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees if social distancing is recommended by your state or local health department. Actively encourage flexible work arrangements such as teleworking or staggered shifts.
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning. Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces, such as workstations, countertops, handrails and doorknobs. Discourage sharing of tools and equipment, if feasible.
  • Consider the need for travel and explore alternatives. Check CDC’s Travelers’ Health for the latest guidance and recommendations. Consider using teleconferencing and video conferencing for meetings, when possible.
  • Provide education and training materials in an easy to understand format and in the appropriate language and literacy level for all employees, like fact sheets and posters.
  • If an employee becomes sick while at work, they should be separated from other employees, customers and visitors and sent home immediately. Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting areas the sick employee visited.

Should we require employees to wear masks and/or face shields?

Jewelers of America recommends that employers require their staff to wear face masks. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community transmission. Cloth face coverings may prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from transmitting it to others.

There is no research on how well one’s face shield can protect others from viral transmission. Whether cloth masks or shields, employers should always check state and local government requirements for masks and other protective gear.

Should we require customers to wear masks? Do we provide them with one?

As with face masks for employees, JA recommends businesses require customers to wear face coverings, especially if your business is in an area where there continues to be wide community spread. From Jewelers of America’s Back to Business Toolkit: Health, Safety and Social Distancing consider the following guidelines:

Establish consistent policies for customers and other visitors: If they are not mandated by your state or local government, decide whether you want to have customers follow practices – such as wearing face masks – required by employees. Regardless of your decision, have policies be consistently applied. Create a plan and guidance for employees who must engage with visitors, including customers, who are not adhering to the required employer or state/local mandates.
  • Provide protective gear: Offer face masks and gloves at the entrance of your store for customers.
  • Be consistent. If you require face coverings, all guests must be required to wear face coverings. Don’t make exceptions.

How do I keep employees who interact with customers safe?

From the CDC’s Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace:
  • Consider options to increase physical space between employees and customers (drop-off service, erecting partitions and marking floors to guide spacing at least six feet apart).
  • At least once a day clean and disinfect surfaces frequently touched by multiple people. This includes door handles, desks, phones, light switches and faucets.
  • Consider assigning a person to rotate throughout the workplace to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Consider scheduling handwashing breaks so employees can wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

The CDC also has a comprehensive Worker Protection Tool to help you identify protections you’ll need for your specific business. Among the things you’ll want to consider:

  • Use verbal announcements, signs and visual cues to promote social distancing.
  • Ask sick customers to stay home; post signs asking them not to enter if they are sick.
More information on state and local requirements is available from Fisher Phillips.

How can I help those with concerns or anxiety and protect employees who may be at higher risk for severe illness?

Have conversations with employees if they express concerns. Some people may be at higher risk of severe illness. This includes older adults (65 years and older) and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions. By using strategies that help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, you will help protect all employees, including those at higher risk. These strategies include:
  • Implementing telework and other social distancing practices
  • Actively encouraging employees to stay home when sick
  • Promoting handwashing
  • Providing supplies and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for cleaning and disinfecting workspaces
In workplaces where it’s not possible to eliminate face-to-face contact (such as retail), consider assigning higher risk employees work tasks that allow them to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, if feasible.

Employers should not require employees to provide a note from their healthcare provider when they are sick and instead allow them to inform their supervisors or employee health services when they have conditions that put them at higher risk for diseases.

See more information from the CDC’s Reducing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.

How can I address general employee anxiety?

We’re not even half-way through it and 2020 has been one of the more stressful year’s on record. For yourself and employees, sharing mental health resources and tips to get through is critical.

The CDC’s Employees: How to Cope with Job Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic offers tips on building resilience for workers including:
  • Communicate with employees about job stress while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet).
    • Identify things that cause stress and work together to identify solutions.
    • Talk openly about how the pandemic is affecting work. Expectations should be communicated clearly by everyone.
    • Share mental health resources in your workplace.
  • Know and share the facts about COVID-19. Be informed about how to protect yourself and others. Understanding the risk and sharing accurate information can reduce stress.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting
  • Encourage your employees to connect with others. Let them know they can safely share concerns, how they are feeling, or how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting them.
  • Check on others. Look for safe ways to offer social support to others, especially if they are showing signs of stress, such as depression and anxiety.

Should we be screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms? What’s the best way to do that?

Jewelers of America recommends jewelers establish stringent health policies and recommends workers to stay home if they are sick.

These could include daily temperature checks and symptom checks. Have your employees self-evaluate whether they’ve had symptoms including dry cough, fever, shortness of breath and sore throat in the last 72 hours. If they have, it is recommended that they don’t report for work.

The CDC offers several methods for safe temperature screening. The most protective methods incorporate social distancing (maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others), or physical barriers to eliminate or minimize the screener’s exposures due to close contact with a person who has symptoms during screening. You can also have employees do their own temperature checks before heading to work. Click here for more information.

How do I handle suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace?

From the CDC’s FAQ on the topic: In most cases, you do not need to shut down your business. But do close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:
  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
  • During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting, employers should determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and need to take additional precautions:

Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider and state or local health department.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

If employees have been exposed but are not showing symptoms, should I allow them to work?

Employees may have been exposed if they are a “close contact” of someone who is infected, which is defined as being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time:
  • Potentially exposed employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and follow CDC recommended steps.
  • Potentially exposed employees who do not have symptoms should remain at home or in a comparable setting and practice social distancing for 14 days.

All other employees should self-monitor for symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If they develop symptoms, they should notify their supervisor and stay home.

See Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure for more information.

What should I do if I find out several days later, after an employee worked, that they were diagnosed with COVID-19?

  • If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee used the facility, clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
  • If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the facility.
  • Address whether or not other employees were exposed to the person and take the appropriate steps.
  • Employees not considered exposed should self-monitor for symptoms

When should an employee suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 return to work?

Sick employees should follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 if you are sick. Employees should not return to work until they meet the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider and state or local health department.

Employers should not require sick employee to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or healthcare provider’s note to return to work. Employees with COVID-19 who have stayed home can stop home isolation and return to work when they have met one of the following sets of criteria:
  • Option 1: If, in consultation with a healthcare provider and local public health authorities knowledgeable about locally available testing resources, it is determined an employee will not have a test to determine if they are still contagious, the employee can leave home and return to work after these three conditions have been met:
    • The employee has had no fever for at least 72 hours (that is, 3 full days of no fever without the use medicine that reduces fevers)
    • Respiratory symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved)
    • At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared
  • Option 2: If, in consultation with a healthcare provider and local public health authorities knowledgeable about locally available testing resources, it is determined the employee will be tested to determine if the employee is still contagious, the employee can leave home after these three conditions have been met:
    • The employee no longer has a fever (without the use of medicine that reduces fevers)
    • Respiratory symptoms have improved (for example, cough or shortness of breath have improved)
    • They received two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart. Their doctor should follow CDC guidelines.

Cleaning Questions

What are some best practices for cleaning and disinfecting your store?

Follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations:
  • Clean dirty surfaces with soap and water before disinfecting them.
  • To disinfect surfaces, use products that meet EPA criteria for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 and are appropriate for the surface.
  • Always wear gloves and gowns appropriate for the chemicals being used when you are cleaning and disinfecting.
  • You may need to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) depending on the setting and disinfectant product you are using.

Read more from the CDC and cleaning in Jewelers of America’s Back to Business Toolkit: Cleaning and Sanitizing.

What’s the best way to clean and disinfect jewelry?

From JA’s Back to Business Toolkit: Cleaning and Sanitizing, some tips from The Kingswood Company:

  • Develop a strategy that fits your environment.
  • Provide a tray with cleaner for each associate to use each day or for each counter. Stock with cleaner, paper towels and microfiber or polish cloths.
  • Have ULTRASONIC CLEANING – stations around the store for cleaning or rinsing.
  • Collect jewelry after it is tried on and return to a central location for cleaning before returning to the case.
  • Consider new policies for cleaning jewelry being returned after purchase.
  • Incorporate cleaning into your repair services – clean first! Then repair.
  • If you offer in-store cleaning, as a free service, consider adjusting turn-around time and impact on sales associates.
  • Jewelry should be cleaned before and after each customer touches it.

When disinfecting jewelry, isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide are safe for solid gold or platinum and diamond, ruby or sapphire. Use a gentler form of cleaning for other kinds of stones. The Kingswood Company recommends cleaning versus disinfecting jewelry:

  • Cleaning is easy for your Associates – and your customers – to get it right.
  • Clean all jewelry for 20 seconds – just like when you wash your hands.
  • Soap and all-purpose jewelry cleaners are safe and effective for daily use and for all jewelry.
  • Disinfectants (Chlorine Bleach, Alcohol) are not safe for most jewelry

For more information, you can view a recent webinar JA conducted with Kingswood here.

Government Help/Legislation

What is the Paycheck Protection Program?

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), was initially introduced as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The program, which is administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA), was introduced to support emergency loans to help small businesses cover near-term costs during the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, while giving them incentive to retain employees. The program expired in August, but Congress has revised it as part a pandemic relief package that passed on December 21, 2021. The updated program includes $284 billion in additional funding toward first and second time borrowers. Businesses with less than 300 employees with a revenue reduction of at least 25 percent in a 2020 quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019 can apply for a second PPP loan.

See the full update on the new PPP here.

How do I apply for a Payroll Protection Loan?

The loan application will be available at the SBA website. As of this update on December 22, 2020, the SBA has not updated the site with information on the new loans. However, we recommend that you consult with your current lender or a local lender to see if they are participating and determine if you are qualified for a first or second time loan. Visit for a list of SBA lenders. You can also contact your local SBA Development Center for more information.

What can I use PPP funds toward in order to have the loan forgiven?

The new PPP loans require that 60 percent of the funds go toward payroll costs, while 40 percent of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs such as rent, mortgage interest and utilities. Legislation passed at the end of 2020 clarifies that group insurance payments count as payroll costs, including group life, disability, vision and dental insurance. The new PPP loans also makes the following potentially forgivable:
  • Covered worker protection and facility modification expenditures, including personal protective equipment, to comply with COVID-19 federal health and safety guidelines.
  • Payments to suppliers that are essential at the time of purchase to the recipient’s current operations.
  • The loans can also be used for property damage costs due to public disturbances that were not covered by insurance.
  • Covered operating costs such as software and cloud computing services and accounting needs.

What are some other key changes to the PPP?

  • Allows PPP recipients to deduct payroll costs and other expenses covered by the forgivable loans, even though the loans themselves are tax-free income.
  • PPP borrowers may receive loans of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs in the year prior to the loan or the calendar year, but the maximum loan amount has been cut from $10 million in the first round to $2 million maximum with the new PPP. The new legislation provides a simplified forgiveness application process for loans up to $150,000.
  • Ensures full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans

The PPP Flexibility Act – which passed in June 2020 -- added two new exemptions:

  • The forgiveness reduction will not apply if the borrower can document an inability to rehire the same or similar employees that were in place as of February 15, 2020.
  • The forgiveness reduction will not apply if the borrower can document an inability to return to the same level of business activity before February 15, 2020, due to COVID-related social distancing, sanitation and other safety requirements or guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

How Can I Apply for Loan Forgiveness?

Visit the SBA site to download the form.
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